His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Remarks at the OCMC Banquet
May 13, 2023
Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church
Falls Church, Virginia
Thank you, beloved friend, Mike Manatos, for that introduction.
Dr. Woloschak, OCMC Board President,
Father Ritsi, Executive Director of the Center,
Father Pavlakos, our host pastor this evening,
Father Antokas, President of Pan-Orthodox Clergy Syndesmos,
Fr. Alessandro Margheritino, Secretary of the Syndesmos,
Distinguished Guests and Beloved in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
What a wonderful event for our Orthodox Christian Mission Center, here at Saint Katherine in Falls Church! All of you are to be commended for your presence, but especially the organizers for OCMC and the Parish, who have made this evening possible. I would have liked to have been here for the Vespers, but I was delayed by today’s enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Saba, the new leader of the Antiochian Church in America.
There is a special relationship between OCMC and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. As you all surely know, it was the wisdom and foresight of the ever-memorable Archbishop Iakovos, who saw that by gifting the Center to the aegis of SCOBA, which has now morphed into the Assembly of Bishops, that the apostolate of the Church in America would be shared by all Orthodox. It is this mission that we celebrate tonight.
And it is not without significance that the Mission Center is located in the very place where the first Greeks came ashore in America, where we celebrate this history at the Saint Photios National Shrine. These first Hellenes were unintentional missionaries, bringing their faith and culture to the New World by accident.
Today, we are missionaries with a purpose, with a plan. OCMC organizes and empowers those who feel the vocation to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with the world. OCMC provides opportunities for service around the globe, and these mission fields, as tomorrow’s Gospel Reading for the Samaritan Woman tells us, “are already white for the harvest” – λευκαί εἰσι πρὸς θερισμὸν ἤδη.* As many of you know, this reference to the color of the wheat meant that the grain was about ready to fall of the stalk, because the harvest had been delayed. The Lord said this to His Disciples as the Samaritans were pouring out of the town to come and meet Him. He was preparing the Disciples for mission, even though they thought He had been talking about a meal.
Well, here we are, at a lovely meal, but we are talking about the same mission about which the Lord was instructing His Disciples two thousand years ago. The commandment to preach the Gospel to all Nations has never changed. But Orthodox Christians do not go out into the world in order to subjugate others to our way of thinking, our way of believing. We engage in order to share the Good News of God’s providential love for all humankind.
The mission of OCMC is not a work of proselytization. It is a labor of love. Whether it is through building temples where resources are spare. Or by outfitting Catechists with teaching materials. Or clergy with vestments. Or training those who lack seminaries and other institutional support so that they might be more effective in building up the Body of Christ. OCMC is a manifestation of our love for God and for His creation. Whether through words or through silent actions that often speak louder than words, OCMC delivers God’s love.
Therefore, I express my profound gratitude and congratulations to all who have assembled this evening for our mission: to share in this labor of love and to equip OCMC for its sacred apostolate to the world. Each of our workers in the Vineyard of the Lord need support, sustenance, and encouragement. Your presence this evening bring all three.
Thank you, and may the Good Lord bless us all!